The above VIDEO shows the Lyons Hall as it looked in 1878, 1944 and 2018. The end of the video shows the recreation of the luxurious silk, and what the former Imperial hall will look after the restoration is complete – thanks to state of the art computer artistry. Once complete, the Lyons Hall will most certainly rank among one of the most beautiful interiors in the Catherine Palace – PG
During their occupation of Tsarskoye Selo during the Great Patriotic War (1941-44), the Nazis used the Catherine Palace as a barracks and later for target practice. When the Nazi forces retreated after the Siege of Leningrad in 1944, the former Imperial palace was plundered, and intentionally set ablaze, leaving only the hollow shell of the palace behind.
After the Soviets retook Tsarskoye Selo, “the Catherine Palace presented a terrible scene. The great hall, the picture gallery and the gala staircase had all collapsed… The Amber Room had been stripped and the gala rooms gutted by a fire… A most terrible sight was Ratsrelli’s vista of golden doorways, now reduced to raw bricks laden with snow. Cameron’s classic suite of rooms was not destroyed but had been much vandalised,” notes Christopher Morgan and Irina Orlova in their book Saving the Tsar’s Palaces (2005).
Prior to World War II, Soviet archivists managed to document a fair amount of the interior, which proved of great importance in reconstructing the palace.
Although the largest part of the reconstruction was completed in time for the Tercentenary of St. Petersburg in 2003, much work is still required to restore the palace to its former glory.
Among the projects is the Lyons Hall, which has been undergoing a costly restoration for many years now. Up until recently, the Lyons Hall only offered visitors surviving items from its pre-war furnishings and a copy of Luigi Premazzi’s watercolour of 1878 titled The Lyons Hall (Yellow Drawing-Room) in the Great Palace of Tsarskoye Selo, which demonstrates its mid-nineteenth century splendour.
The interior is the creation of two architects: Charles Cameron (1745-1812) and later Ippolito Monighetti (1819-1878). Decorated with lapis lazuli and a luxury silk wall lining from Lyons (hence the name), the hall was finished by Cameron in the 18th-century Classical style in 1781-83. It was reworked in 1848-61 by Monighetti who treated Cameron’s work with great delicacy, intensifying the visual impact of the room by adding new furnishings: mirrors above the fireplaces, flanked by white marble cupids, and lapis-lazuli sconces on the walls. The room was filled with tables, jardinières, cachepots, screens, pedestals and desks.
Monighetti designed the gorgeous chandelier for 84 candles made of lapis lazuli and gilded bronze, which beautifully completed the now-lost exquisite ceiling décor.
The architect’s highlight for the Lyons Hall is the gilt-bronze and lapis-lazuli furniture set with such a unique feature as the monogram of Empress Maria Alexandrovna, spouse of Alexander II. The initials are an indication of the owner for whom these pieces were specially commissioned in 1856 from the Peterhof Lapidary Works to spruce up the empress’s favourite interior of the palace. Its Afghan lapis lazuli of rich deep colour with golden speckles is superbly set off by the gilded bronze surroundings.
The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve are committed to completing the restoration of the Lyons Hall, with plans to open it to the public by the summer of 2019. The first stage of the restoration has already been completed by the upholstery of the three original armchairs with unique silk made from old samples and sketches. The next stage – the production of this material for walls and curtains, as well as the restoration and installation of the ceiling and floors.
Click HERE to read more about the restoration of the Lyons Hall in the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 24 May 2018